MIAMI, April 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the centuries, Paul's view of law has been considered "one of the most puzzling and seemingly insolvable in biblical study," according to James Sanders, an editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But scholars now believe that the seemingly "insolvable" may have finally been solved, yet not without significant repercussions regarding Christian doctrine – including the church's longstanding view on homosexuality. For the relationship between Jewish law and homosexuality are inextricable. And any new discovery related to Paul's view of Jewish law invariably leads to a new finding regarding his actual view of homosexuality as well.
David Horrell's textbook explains why Paul's view of law has puzzled scholars for so long: "The basic problem in interpreting Paul's Christian view of the Jewish law is that he seems to say both positive and negative things about it." Horrell continues on to state, "As for Paul's consistency, few would want to argue that Paul was rigorously consistent or systematic in all that he wrote."
Yet cryptographer Michael Wood not only claims that Paul was rigorously consistent, he claims that Paul was so systematic that all of his positive/negative statements can be fully explained in a single sentence. "Michael Wood's (one-sentence!) proposal is not only original and fresh, but an important contribution which the academic community needs to seriously consider," writes Dr. Chris Tilling, of St. Mellitus College and author of Paul's Divine Christology.
Despite the seeming impossibility of reducing a 1900-year-old problem down to a single-sentence solution, many scholars are now attesting to the sentence's merit. Dr. Douglas Campbell of Duke's Divinity School considers Wood's proposal to be an "intelligent," "interesting," "well-argued" premise that "has a lot of explanatory power."
A growing number of scholars are finding themselves persuaded by Wood's one-sentence proposal. Rev Dr. Colin Miller of Peter Maurin House wrote: "I am persuaded by Michael Wood's one sentence. I do think it solves the problems, and mostly in the ways he says it does. This is incredible, and I am very grateful to him for it. After reading it, I went back and read through all the relevant portions of Paul's letters, and I cannot find one place that remains contradictory in the strong sense. He's done something truly remarkable."
Although Wood's proposal derives solely from historical facts, it has the potential to dramatically impact the Christian Faith. Campbell sees Wood's solution as challenging the currently dominant and widespread view of Paul - including Paul's perspective on the very nature of God himself.
"When you push back on Paul's view of law, you end up with a different understanding of God. These questions are related. Who do you think God really is deep down? What's He really like?" Campbell said.
Campbell explained that the traditional explanation of Paul's view on law "makes God out to be retributive and judgmental."
"[But] Michael's explanation [of law] allows him to say that God is not," he added. "He's actually kind. He's more like a mother or father who loves you unconditionally and going to hang on to you whether you screw up or not. Now there, in my view, Michael's absolutely right."
Although Wood originally sought to solve the problem of Paul's view of "law," his solution invariably impacts the issue of homosexuality - a hot topic among believers today. His pursuit of a solution required resolving two seemingly irreconcilable passages. In one passage, Paul taught that brotherly love fulfills the entire Law (Romans 13.8-9). Yet, in another passage, many Christians believe Paul wrote "no homosexual shall enter God's Kingdom" (1 Corinthians 6.9). New Testament scholars such as EP Sanders consider these two passages to be irreconcilable. Sanders believes the passages demonstrate that Paul's teachings on law were "ad hoc" rather than systematically consistent. However, Wood claims that his one-sentence solution fully reconciles even these two passages, in both principle and detail.
Wood reveals the findings of his twelve years of research in a new book titled "Pauline Paradoxes Decoded", a work in which he has taken the unusual approach of fusing scholarly research with an ongoing narrative. "Wood's manuscript has been a genuine delight to read, not only as a result of his gripping, original and important argument, but also because he has an ability to keep the reader engaged, almost as if one were reading a novel," Tilling said.
It bears noting that Wood's initial career was in the field of cryptography, not biblical studies. However, Wood gained recognition in his teenage years for memorizing Paul's letters verbatim. Applying his cryptanalytic skills to the letters that he had memorized was a naturally fortuitous combination.
"There are a lot of things that I like about his work. And for him to have done all this by himself without any formal training, just by reading and thinking, is pretty incredible," Campbell stated.
At the very least, the publication of Wood's solution should spark a healthy debate and discussion in the Christian community. And, perhaps, the 1,900-year-old issue has finally been solved.
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SOURCE Michael Wood